Legal hotline: Do’s and don’ts
“Hi, it’s Hank Lerner. I’m returning your call to the PAR legal hotline.”
Thus began a new era at PAR as our in-house legal team began answering the legal hotline. Names and voices may have changed, but the same policies still apply – with a few little tweaks. After several weeks answering calls, I thought it would be a good idea to review a few things that will make your (and our) hotline experience a little smoother.
The legal hotline is regularly cited as one of PAR’s most appreciated member benefits, but that only works if it’s truly limited to Realtor® members of PAR. We will not answer questions from clients, unlicensed administrative assistants, maintenance staff, non-Realtor® offices or non-member salespersons in Realtor® offices – all of whom have called at various times. Please don’t give out the number or suggest that anyone other than a member use the service.
Stick to the posted hours
The hotline is currently open from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m., and our upgraded phone system doesn’t take voicemails outside the posted hours. We anticipate expanding hours later this year, but want to be sure everything is fully up to speed before that happens.
And we ask that you please don’t call or email PAR attorneys directly with your questions. We are committed to returning hotline calls as efficiently as we can, in the order they’re received, and it’s not fair to those who have left messages in the queue if other try to go around the system.
Be clear, but brief
Please give your full first name as it is on your license and/or membership record – not your nickname – and spell it if it’s tricky. Definitely spell out your last name, even if you think it’s easy – we’ve got Realtors® named Smith, Smyth and Smythe. Be sure there’s an area code with your phone number, and it wouldn’t hurt to let us know if it’s an office or cell number.
We’re also asking for a brief description of your question. Not a five-minute story, but something like “buyer and seller have a deposit money dispute” or “need to know if the listing broker can reduce my coop fee at the last minute.” This helps us refresh on a topic before the return call if necessary, or to assign it to an attorney who may have more knowledge in a specific area. Leaving out any of these items may get your call bumped to the bottom of the queue.
Keep your phone nearby
We’ll do our very best to return your call the same day – and definitely by the next workday. Our caller ID should now show the hotline 800 number; if you save that in your phone contacts you’ll even know it’s us! We will call back a few times over the next two days, but if we can’t connect at this point, you’ll be asked to leave a new message to be sure the question is still active. We might also respond via email if the response is simple enough or if we are sending along some other resource, and will use hotline in the subject line when we do.
Information, not advice
Hotline attorneys will educate, inform and explain, but we can’t give specific advice on what to do in your particular transaction. For example, we can explain what the law and Agreement of Sale say about release of escrow, but we won’t give an opinion on which party should be entitled to the funds. Furthermore, we can’t draft language for you or your client, nor can we interpret the language that isn’t part of a PAR standard form.
For the love of all that is holy and dear to you, TALK TO YOUR BROKER OR MANAGER!
Sorry, too subtle?
Too many callers haven’t yet had a conversation in the office, and while “talk to your broker” is a part of many answers we know that at least some still don’t do it after they hang up.
Why does that matter? Three main reasons. (1) Some questions could be answered quickly and easily in the office without playing phone tag with the hotline. (2) Many responses are dependent on some sort of brokerage policy, so you’ll need that information for a complete answer. (3) Risks – for you and the broker – go up when you act on your own. Acting outside of the broker’s allowable practices or advice not only increases the chances of some sort of a complaint, but also increases the chances that E&O coverage may not apply.
We look forward to continuing to maintain the excellent reputation the legal hotline has, serving your needs and continuing to be an asset to PAR’s membership. Thank you for your help making things run as efficiently as possible.